Blog 5 – Flipping the Classroom

One topic that has come up in our discussions in class is the idea of flipping the classroom – in this blog, I talk about my experiences with and thoughts on how this technique can be used in engineering.

As a student, I think I like this idea. For example, I’m taking an engineering class right now that incorporates some of these concepts, with the instructor posing informational “pencasts” to explain some of the derivations that would normally be presented in class. No matter how dedicated and intelligent the student, watching the instructor write line after line of calculus on the board is mind-numbing. Having these derivations in a form that can be paused, skipped through, or watched again is really helpful.

As a potential educator, well, I’m also excited about this. A quick internet search reveals a variety of ways that teachers are using these tools to make their classrooms more flexible. I recently heard another Ph.D. student talking about his struggle to cover all of the required material without going too fast for the students to understand. I think providing some material for students to review out of class could help with this. To encourage participation, short assessment quizzes could be used to check the students’ understanding of the material. Lecture time “freed” by moving some of the material to videos or online tutorials could be used for example problems or demonstrations.

However, as we discussed in class, we must keep in mind that these are tools – not replacements for good teaching. In my mind, the instructor’s ideal role in this type of learning would be to serve as a guide – to help students help themselves. The time “freed” by the use of outside-class lectures must be put to good use, such as discussion, problem solving, and finding and filling in “gaps” in the students’ understanding of the material. Basically, I tend to think that having more teaching tools can only be good for educators, because, although we have long known about different styles of learning, I think the traditional classroom lacks the flexibility to make use of this knowledge. Sadly, based on our discussion in class, this seems hopelessly idealistic. The point one student made in class that this will likely be misunderstood by administrations, leading to further cost-cutting and an overall decline in educational quality is a good one – one that I don’t have an answer for.

What about you? How do you think these teaching techniques could benefit you as a student? As a teacher?

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